There's never been a better time to enjoy all the benefits of indoor and outdoor gardening.

hilton carters plant lighting tips
Credit: Hilton Carter © CICO Books

There's never been a better time to enjoy all the benefits of indoor and outdoor gardening.

The hours, the days, and the weeks seem to blend together when you're physical and social distancing inside. With ample hours and pent-up energy, many are looking for at-home projects. If adopting a pet isn't an option or of interest to you, go green instead and try your luck at indoor or outdoor gardening. Experts agree that now, more than ever, "plant babies" can be a positive, uplifting, and healthy addition to your social distancing routine. Here, surprising benefits of investing in your green thumb, some tips for success, and recommended products for beginners. Ready, set, plant—and grow!

Plants of various sizes, shapes, and shades do more than serve as a backdrop for your Instagram photos, they also provide mental and physical perks for their owners. As you nurture and nourish your herbs, veggies, and leafy greens, you may notice a multitude of benefits.

Your spirits will be lifted.

Many people are suffering from an uptick in anxiety right now—for obvious reasons—and focusing on a task can help alleviate some of the pressure. Creating an outdoor garden can help transfer those nervous feelings into productive projects, thus renewing your spirit, says Blythe Yost, the co-founder and head designer for Tilly. "Symbolically, spring is something people look forward to," she continues. "This year the trees, shrubs, and flowers will still leaf out, bloom, and flourish. Being outdoors and building and caring for a garden is a great project that maybe you never had time for before, but you do now."

You will have something to nurture.

When we are practicing physical and social distancing from our friends and family, we aren't able to shower one another with love as we usually do.  This can leave many people feeling as if they've lost their sense of purpose, says L.Be Sholar, the founder of Farm-Based Foodie. However, when we adopt plants—or become a 'bio-parent' by planting seeds—we fill our time with meaning, since these buds need us. "They rely on us for the right growing conditions in order to survive," Sholar says. "Now is the best time to adopt plants and become a plant parent because you'll have the time to learn, experiment, and give them the care they deserve."

You'll feel more connected to nature.

Sadly, dining al fresco at your favorite restaurant isn't an option right now. Neither is grabbing your besties and going on a long hike. However, soaking up vitamin D and breathing fresh air is still important, even if it looks different this season. "Rather than feeling distant from nature, as well as people, plants give us an excuse to head outside," says Abbye Churchill, author of the garden design book The Gardens of Eden. Or bring the outdoors in. "Planting in any form—from window sill planters, to countertop herbs, to an outdoor space of any size—can help us feel reconnected to nature which can be incredibly life affirming at any time, but especially right now," she says.

You can feed yourself.

Or at the very least, not have to barter for the last thyme in the produce section. If you're interested in planting foods you can eat, Churchill says now is the time to try your luck with veggies, fruits, and herbs. "Not only can the process of planting and growing be restorative, it can also help to create your own food supply, reduce trips to the grocery store, and create your own fresh food source," she says. "Plus, we're in early spring. This is actually the ideal time to plant in many parts of the world as we move into warmer weather."

Tips for Success

Pull out that old dusty planter you've never used, order some soil—and you'll be well on your way to a garden oasis. Or at the very least, a thriving succulent you adore.

Find the right plant match.

Much like dating, Churchill says not all plants are created for all people. Dependent on your typical lifestyle, who you share your home with and how much energy you're willing to put into plant care, some sprouts may work for you, while others will crash and burn. Before going on a digital shopping spree, she says to consider pets, light sources and the overall goal of your garden. Do you want herbs you can eat? Do you want your children to help? Having this information on hand when you shop around will help narrow down your choices.

Consider the space and stock you have.

Take stock of your living spaces and look for areas where a green beauty makes sense. While Churchill says you don't need to have a ton of space to get started, having a roadmap will make setting up shop easier. "A window sill, a fire escape, a bookshelf, a few feet of earth—start small and with what you have," she recommends. Though it might be difficult to get everything you need right now to start a garden, Churchill says there are some creative hacks to try that don't require long shipping times. As an example, plastic bottles can be cut in half and used as temporary planters with a few holes poked in the bottom for drainage.

Be mindful of light.

When you're ready to make your plant purchase (woo!), take a second look at the sunlight required for the species. Most will have shady, partial shade, full sun, medium sun, and so on. This indicates how direct or indirect the sun should be shining on your plant baby. "Check the specific needs of your plant to know the best location to put your new plant, whether indoors or outside," Churchill says. "If you're growing indoors, plants don't necessarily have to be right next to a window, but make sure they get enough sun exposure throughout the day to suit their specific needs."

Step away from the watering can.

Plant coach and apartment farmer Nick Cutsumpas says one of the most common mistakes rookie plant parents make is giving their plants a little too much love. In fact, when in doubt, he says it's better to give your babies space rather than go overboard with water and fertilizer. "Being a helicopter plant parent can sometimes be worse than a neglectful one, and most plants prefer being a bit thirsty," he explains. How can you tell? He suggests sticking your finger two to three inches down to access the moisture. Most plants will have dry soil at the top but saturated soil underneath. Until all of the water is gone when you poke a finger through, do not add more. Most of the time, this is every 10 to 14 days.

Research soil.

Repeat after Sholar: soil is not just dirt. It's a living, breathing and active part of the growing process. That's why high-quality soil is absolutely essential for good results, since it features billions of microorganisms that benefit plant health. "Good soil is a balanced ecosystem that works in tandem with your plant's roots. Just like your gut health affects your body's health, soil health affects your plant's health," she notes.

Try These Plants

These plants and products are great for first-time plant parents—or for anyone who wants to expand their gardening skills. You can buy from online retailers like the ones below, or consider reaching out to a local nursery that may be offering delivery during the pandemic. From herbs and veggies to pretty flowers, here are a few options to help you get started.

ZZ plant in pot
Credit: Courtesy of Desk Plants

The ZZ Plant

Fun (and wild!) fact: you can leave this one by itself for four months and it'll still look lush and green. How cool is that? Since it's technically part of the succulent family that thrives with very little water, it's about as low-maintenance as they come—while still sprouting beautifully.

Shop Now: Desk Plants ZZ Plant, from $22,

Indoor and outdoor gardening kit
Credit: Courtesy of Farm Based Foodie

Mini Cube Pop-Up Garden

You're not quite ready to make a big investment in a veggie garden but you'd like to test it out. Enter: the ideal middle man. This indoor or outdoor gardening set includes everything you need to try growing shelf-stable foods like tomatoes, herbs, and more.

Shop Now: Farm Based Foodie Mini Cube Garden Kit, $89,

Snake plant in blue pot

Snake Plant

Also an easier indoor plant to keep alive, a snake plant adds height to your design scheme, as well as a rich green color. As a bonus, it naturally purifies your air, which is great for the allergy season that's rich in pollen. It comes with a cute basket that makes watering a breeze.

Shop Now: Bloomscape Sansevieria Moonshine, $65,

indoor vegetable garden kit
Credit: Courtesy of Gardyn


Though it's quite the investment, for those who are ready to create a whole salad garden inside their home, this is the way to do it. Complete with everything you need to grow 30 seeds—lettuce, veggies, herbs, and more!—it's not only beneficial and helpful but a design piece, too.

Shop Now: Gardyn Home Starter, $799,


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